HOUSTON (AP) — Shell Oil Co. has decided not to extend its title sponsorship of the Houston Open after next year, ending the third-longest running title sponsorship on the PGA Tour.
Steve Timms, president and chief executive of the Houston Golf Association, said Shell’s decision to leave after 2017 was a function of its business environment and that the company wants to stay involved in some capacity.
“We’re proud as heck of what will be 26 years of a long-running sponsorship,” Timms said Wednesday. “This will present some opportunities for us. We’re confident in our property. We’re in a big market and we feel good about it.”
Parent company Royal Dutch Shell PLC has cut more than 10,000 jobs around the world over the last two years during a downturn in the energy industry. It also recently completed a $70 billion purchase of BG PLC, an oil and gas group in the UK.
Shell has been title sponsor of the Houston Open since 1992. Only the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (1986) and the Honda Classic (1982) have had sponsors that long.
“While this phase in our partnership is coming to a close, our work together has created the best foundation we’ve had in the 70-year history of our professional golf event,” Timms said.
The tournament, now played at the Houston Golf Club, has raised more than $60 million for local charities and is known for its strong junior golf programs. The Shell Houston Open has attracted a strong field since 2007 when it moved to the week before the Masters, and Augusta National restored its qualification that a full PGA Tour victory gets a player into the Masters.
Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth are among those who regularly play the tournament.
The Houston Business Journal first reported the decision based on an internal memo it obtained from Shell Oil President Bruce Culpepper to employees.
“As you might imagine, this was a very difficult decision, driven in large part by the need to adjust our cost structure in response to the challenging business environment in which we operate, but also by a refresh of our branded sponsorship strategy globally,” Culpepper said in the Wednesday email the Journal obtained.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said a search would begin immediately for a new title sponsor.